The second annual Winehound Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting was an enormous success.  The selection of wines was staggering, the food was fabulous (wood fired pizzas from Flatbread) and the venue (the Fess Parker Doubletree) was far superior to last year’s event.   This year there were more than 125 wines from 50 different vintners.  The list is impressive to say the least:  Alma Rosa, Ampelos, Au Bon Climat, Autonom, Babcock, Beckmen, Brander, Ken Brown, Cargasacchi, Carhartt, Carr, Cent’Anni, Cimarone, Clos Pepe Estate, Cold Heaven, Costa de Oro, Demetria, Dragonette, Epiphany, Ethan, Flying Goat, Blair Fox, Happy Canyon Vineyard, Harrison-Clarke, Holus Bolus, Jaffurs, Jelly Roll, Jonata, Jorian Hill, Kaena, Kenneth-Crawford, Paul Lato, Lea, Longoria, Margerum Wine Company, Melville, Native9, Ojai, Fess Parker, Point Concepcio, Qupe, Rey, Samsara, Sanguis, Shai, Stolpman, Tensley, Tercero, The Paring, Tyler, Verdad, VIE, Vogelzang, Whitcraft.    With this many wines, I had to carefully pick and choose my way through the options.   Some of the wines were barrel samples, while many others were bottled, though unreleased.  Though I wasn’t able to taste everything, here is a list of the ones that really, really stood out for me :

Ampelos 2007 Rho Pinot Noir – cola, black cherries, earth, hint of vanilla.  465 cases produced.  Scheduled release late Spring 2011.

Ampelos 2007 Gamma Syrah – pepper, leather, dark berries, bacon.  655 cases produced.  Scheduled release Winter 2010.

Autonom 2007 Rhône Cuvee Central Coast – 55% Grenache, 36% Syrah, 9% Mourvèdre, black pepper, dark berries, meat, clove, mocha. 130 case produced.  Scheduled release Summer 2010.

Beckmen 2008 Syrah Purisima Mountain Vineyard – black fruits, fig, baking spices, bacon, mocha – next to my tasting notes I scribbled “this is a wine the critics will love”, I love it too.   400 cases produced.  Scheduled release Fall 2010

Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir Estate – black cherry, cola, Dr. Pepper, cocoa – a blend of clones 665, 777, 513, Pommard.  1000 cases producedscheduled release Spring 2011.   Clos Pepe’s Wes Hagen was also pouring what he said was the “first ever sparkling wine from the Sta. Rita AVA” – a 2007 Brut Rosé, made by Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars.  Unfortunately my palate was blown out after so many fabulous reds…dang.

Ethan 2009 Grenache Blanc – heady nose of apple, melon and florals, good acid and minerality.  I was head over heels for this barrel sample – it was gorgeous – one of the top 5 wines I tasted at the event.  I spoke with winemaker Ethan Lindquist who indicated that this is the first time he made a Grenache Blanc.  With only 150 cases made, get it while you can when it is released.  Scheduled release Fall 2010.

Ethan 2009 Sangiovese – red cherry, garrigue, ripe strawberry, good acid.  Fabulous “food wine”.  150 cases produced.  Scheduled release Fall 2010.

Jaffurs 2008 Grenache – spice, tart cherry, chocolate covered raspberry, 50% Thompson Vineyard, 50% Stolpman (all Alban and Tablas clones).  390 cases produced.  Scheduled release late Summer 2010.

Jaffurs 2008 Syrah Larner Vineyard – heady and beautiful, blackberry, black pepper, mocha, allspice, super long finish.  340 cases produced.  Scheduled release late Summer 2010.

Kaena 2008 Grenache Larner Vineyard – bright and gorgeous with flavors of red raspberry, cranberry, leather, super long finish.  One of the top 5 wines I tasted at the event.  100 cases produced.  Scheduled release Winter 2010.

Kaena 2008 Hapa – 56% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, garrigue, cedar, clove.  Again, one of the top 5 wines I tasted at the event.  200 cases produced.  Scheduled release Winter 2010.

Rey 2007 Syrah – 10 % Grenache and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, black pepper, mocha.  Wonderful wine for $20.  Available now – but only 100 cases produced so get it while you can!  NOTE:  Rey is a second label – the reserve label is De Su Propia Coshecha – if you see it buy it – your mouth will thank you.

Samsara 2008 Syrah Melville Vineyard – Unexpected nose of florals, black plum, black pepper,  earthy. Only 120 cases produced.   Scheduled release Fall 2010.

Samsara 2008 Syrah Ampelos Vineyard – Very integrated flavors for a 2008, black fruits, black pepper, garrigue and herbs.  Only 75 cases produced.  Scheduled release Fall 2010.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that Ampelos is a big favorite of mine; I love what Samsara’s winemaker Chad Melville has created with the wonderful Ampelos fruit.

Vogelzang 2008 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard – Fiddlestix is a fabulous source of fruit in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, intense flavors of tart cherry, ripe raspberry and caramel, well integrated flavors for such a young wine.   Only 100 cases produced.  Scheduled release Spring 2011.

What a wonderful way to spend the day – I only wish that the event were spread over two days, so that I could taste *all* the wines.  Maybe next year?  Many thanks to Bob Wesley and his team from the Winehound for putting on such a fabulous event!